An Unexpected 3D Journey | my review

Posted on January 24, 2013


the-hobbitI know I’m not alone when I proclaim loudly that I love the Lord of the Rings movies. Three of the best movies you could ever wish to experience. I was overjoyed to hear that The Hobbit was making its way to us, and awaited to be immersed once more in the beautifully realised world of Middle Earth.
I was also slightly nervous at the prospect of a return. Goodness only knows that prequels can be disastrous, you only have to watch the Star Wars movies to witness this. Also it had been 10 years since the Return of the King blew us away, and for a movie that contained the best cinematography and sfx of its day, my concern was that this would not amaze in quite the same way. Would Jackson be able to recapture the magic and transport us back to the Shire. Also [ again ] how would he streeeetch The Hobbit [ the novel, not the person ] to fill three movies and keep the same pace as the LotR trilogy? Books that received the opposite treatment and were trimmed down significantly to fit into three movies.
Not only were all those thoughts going through my head – but there was also the added trepidation of going to see it in HFR-3D!

The Hobbit is, in brief, set 60 years before the journey that Frodo would take in LotR, Gandalf recruits Bilbo Baggins [ Frodo’s older distant cousin ] to accompany a band of dwarves in search of their gold that was stolen by the dragon Smaug. Now, it’s not as dramatic or urgent a story at destroying the One Ring a lá LotR, and this is where part of the problem lies with this movie[s]. It’s just some dwarves wanting their gold back. But that is the story of The Hobbit – like it or not. The story of The Hobbit is not as dark a story as LotR and is by far a more child friendly story so anyone not familiar with the story and expecting the same level of drama and thrills will be disappointed. This doesn’t mean it’s not a good movie. Also there’s a lot of what would normally be considered unnecessary scenes, so this definitely makes The Hobbit a movie more for the fans. It’s the little things that make this story worth watching.

What about the cast? To be honest the dwarves annoyed me, I thought Armitage was good as Thorin but the rest were pretty much interchangeable. Also found the scripting of the dwarves a little simplistic and childish at times.
McKellen was wonderful again as Gandalf and it was good to see Blanchett, Weaving and Lee reprising their familiar roles. Loved Sylvester McCoy as a much fleshed out Radagast – a wizard who has birds nesting in his hair – I was loving the crusty bird excrement down one side of his head. Sirkis shone as ever in his role as Golem  – a truly wonderful character. But without doubt the star was Freeman as Bilbo. He was absolutely perfect in the role, innocent and comfortable at home with his familiar things, yet more than able to convey the excitement and eagerness of someone who *wants* an adventure. I look forward to seeing him again.

So how far along the story of The Hobbit does this movie take us? Well not very far really, but it’s fun. From the arrival of the dwarves to the encounter in the goblin caves. But by far the most beautiful part of the movie is Bilbo’s encounter with Golem. This is where you felt transported back to the wonder of Jackson’s trilogy. This is where the movie shines its brightest, in the darkness of the cavern. I much prefer the make-up approach to portraying creatures on screen than the cgi approach – the Goblin King stood out as a fake character and was a little too like Boss Nass from Phantom Menace for my liking – not a good memory to conjure up! You can’t beat good old fashioned make-up.

Someone said that “If Lord of the Rings never existed, then this film would almost certainly appear to be better”, but given that they are the *best* fantasy films of all time, The Hobbit lacks a certain sparkle and wonder but still remains one of the best movies of 2012. My boys thoroughly enjoyed it – that’s the main thing.

As for the Higher Frame Rate [ 48 instead of the standard 24 ] and 3D, I really wanted to like it – but I cannot lie.
The scenes where the 3D worked best in were the majestic landscapes, the deep Goblin caves and the flashbacks to the dragon’s desecration of the dwarf kingdom. Sadly these scenes are few and far between. The rest of the movie ended up looking odd, cheap, and the whole thing was very distracting and not at all “immersive”, as it’s been described. I felt constantly pulled out of the world and reminded I was just watching a film. It was described to be “…as if someone has taken away the screen and you feel like you are right there with them.” The problem is that while that feels ok to a degree – it really did make you feel that you were on the set, which might be fun, but defeats the whole idea of what cinema is about. You shouldn’t feel as if you are on set, because the problem then becomes that the set is all too fake.
I’m fully aware that people say that this new-fangled technology is in it’s infancy, that we should give it time, but is it really? 3D cinema [ or stereoscopic to give it it’s proper title ] has been around since 1915! That’s almost 100 years – and they still can’t make it work, and you still have to wear stupid glasses! It began as a gimmick and remains a gimmick. Sadly, people are being misled into thinking that 3D versions are a better experience. They’re not. You are being forced to pay more money to watch, and partake in, a lower quality movie-going experience. Steer clear.
The 48fps was less of an issue although it still contributed to the cgi being all the more obvious. However in the world of HDtv and Blu-Ray it jarred less than I thought it would.

Now I need to see it again in 2D so I can fully appreciate the movie, without the distractions of progressive technology!

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